Understanding engagement and disengagement from pro-environmental behaviour: The role of neutralization and affirmation techniques in maintaining persistence in and desistance from car use

Chijioke Uba, Andreas Chatzidakis

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Despite mounting evidence that car use is a prime culprit of global warming, our love affair with the car persists. General awareness of the environmental consequences of car usage is high but fails to correspond to moderated car use. This paper contributes to an understanding of how university students’ environmental beliefs affect decisions to engage in continued car use (persistence) and/or to discontinue or reduce car use (desistance). The aim of the research presented here was to explore the range of neutralizations and counter-neutralizations (affirmations) employed by students and to examine the ways in which they are used to justify and maintain either persistence or desistance in car use. The research consisted of six focus group sessions with thirty-four UK-based Higher Education students. Analysis of the study’s data highlights the range of neutralizations and counter-neutralizations employed by students in social settings. The article discusses the usefulness of neutralization theory in accounting for actual and/or intended non-environmentally friendly behaviour such as car use. In addition, the study’s findings are discussed in relation to prior research and to potential implications for public policy interventions which favour moderating car usage.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)278–294
Number of pages17
JournalTransportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice
Early online date30 Sept 2016
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016

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